Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aspirin reducing breast cancer deaths?

Last Tuesday, The Journal of Clinical Oncology published the results of a study showing that aspirin appears to have a dual benefit: it reduces both the risk of cancer death and the risk of early-stage breast cancer spreading to other body sites.

The study involved over 4,000 nurses who have been participating in the Nurses Health Study since 1976. Early-stage breast cancer survivors who took aspirin 2 - 5 days a week reduced their risk of death by 71%, and their risk of their cancer spreading by 60%. Interestingly, taking aspirin 6 to 7 times a week reduced death risk by 64% and spread risk by 43%, so more frequent dosing did not increase the protective effect of the drug.

How aspirin and other NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen work to stop tumors from spreading and recurring is not yet known. Study researchers think that tumor growth may be fueled by inflammation; NSAIDs interfere with this process, depriving cancer cells of a favorable environment in which to grow and thrive.

Both estrogen-positive and non-hormone dependent tumors were adversely affected; so this finding could potentially benefit virtually all breast cancer patients.

At the moment, no one should start taking aspirin or other NSAIDs in the hope of preventing future cancers; patients on radiation or chemotherapy should NOT take these drugs due to their potential side effects. Also, NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation and bleeding; so consult with your oncologist first before adding any other drug to your cancer regimen.

Interesting news, though! Perhaps aspirin really is a "wonder drug" in an entirely new way.

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